Canada's final report on the collapse of sockeye salmon released

Nov 1, 2012

The two year long Canadian inquiry into disappearing sockeye salmon has finally been released.  In the end, the report didn't pinpoint one cause for the collapse, but fish farms and Canada’s fisheries department was singled out for criticism.

The three volume, twelve hundred page report will land with a loud thud for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Aquaculture industry. After two years of hearings and submissions, the Cohen Commission into the decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River has issued 75 recommendations.

Retired Judge Bruce Cohen found that Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans are in a potential conflict-of-interest in both promoting salmon farms and regulating them. He is recommending that the department no longer do both.

He is also recommending a freeze on net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands until September of 2020, because they have a potential to introduce exotic diseases and to worsen existing health issues with sockeye salmon.

If evidence is found to pose anything more than a minimal risk to the sockeye before then, he says the fish farms should be prohibited.

Although no single cause has been found for the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye fishery in 2009, he says global warming and the subsequent increase in ocean temperatures play a major role. Pollution and development along the river also are factors. Cohen is recommending the fisheries department continue to implement and financially support policies regarding wild salmon dating back to 1986. He is also very critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s effort to amend Canada’s Fisheries
 Act, saying it goes in a very different direction from protecting fish habitat, promoting biodiversity and good management practices.

The inquiry will cost Canadian taxpayers $25 million dollars Canadian and received over three million pages of documents.

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